Orange County Agency to Sue State Over Housing Mandates

May 31, 2021 Updated: May 31, 2021

An agency representing Orange County cities says it will sue the government department responsible for approving state-imposed housing quotas in California.

The Orange County Council of Governments (OCCOG) has been meeting in closed session for nearly six months to discuss the legal matter. The board revealed to the public on May 27 that it had voted unanimously to sue the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) over its latest Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) plan.

Recent changes to the way state-imposed housing quotas are calculated have tripled required zoning provisions for new housing units in the county, increasing them from about 400,000 in the current 8-year RHNA cycle to more than 1.3 million in the next cycle, which begins in October 2022.

Fred Galante, general counsel for OCCOG, told The Epoch Times that the HCD used incorrect measures to calculate the allocation.

“HCD did not apply the right law to establish the Regional Housing Needs Assessment. It may be that the conclusion is that it’s too high, but really it’s just their failure to follow the law,” Galante said.

The attorney noted that he was limited in what he could reveal about the pending filing.

“At this time, I really am not at liberty to say much more than what was just reported out in the open session, specifically that the board … directed our office to file a petition for writ of mandate against HCD challenging its application of the statutes and the RHNA methodology,” Galante said.

The RHNA methodology determines zoning quotas for housing, divided among 191 cities in the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) region. The area includes the counties of Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, and Imperial.

More than a dozen Orange County cities appealed the RHNA housing allocations earlier this year but were unsuccessful in getting the quotas reduced or reallocated to other areas.

OCCOG Chair Trevor O’Neil, who represents Anaheim on the SCAG Regional Council and has been a staunch proponent of local control over zoning and housing quotas, told The Epoch Times he’s not able to comment on pending litigation.

According to its website, the OCCOG is a sub-regional agency that leads the development of the county’s planning documents, allowing it to compete for state and federal funding.